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Back to school - help kids make healthy food choices in the school cafeteria

Posted on Aug 17, 2009 by Maggie LaBarbera

It is that time again! Summer passed by fast and now it is back to school! This means many kids will be buying their lunch in the school cafeteria.

Of course, the best option is to have your child bring their lunch from home so together you can create a delicious, well balanced, healthy meal. But, I realize that this is not always feasible and your child may have to select their lunch from the school cafeteria sometimes or more often.

Although school cafeterias have improved their foods nutritionally there are still fatty or high sugary foods for your child to choose. Kids could choose to eat a hot dog every day for example!

Help your child learn to pick healthier foods, vary their choices and eat a nutritious meal that will help them feel better, think better and perform better.The most important and key strategy is to avoid nagging at your child and make a discussion about healthy foods a "negative experience" for them.

Remember, we want to help kids build a fun, positive association with eating healthy. That is what the junk food advertisers do! They make it fun to eat their high sugar, high fat foods. We need to combat that with our own fun positive messaging about nutrition. Look at school lunch as another opportunity to talk with your child about healthy eating and how that helps their mind and body.

Here are a couple of tips to help you get your child making healthier choices in the school cafeteria:

  • look over the cafeteria menu together, most cafeterias have their meals planned out for the week
  • have your child tell you what they typically would choose for lunch
  • have your child find healthier substitutions for some of their "less healthy" food items
  • talk to your child about chips, soda and candy- "once in a while" treats. Find out if these are available at school
  • Encourage your child to choose a meal that has foods from all the food groups.
  • See if they can find items on the school menu that are from each of the food groups and help them look for"
  • milk that is low fat or skim
  • lean meats like white chicken meat or grilled lean hambergers
  • fruits and vegetables should always be part of their meal
  • let your child select their higher fat or higher sugary food items once in a while.
  • avoid restricting your child from ever eating a favorite high fat or high sugar foods. This will only make them want it more and create a negative association with the healthy foods.
The key is to encourage your child to eat a healthy, balanced meal most of the time; it is okay to have some of the other higher fat, higher sugar foods - just once in a while! That's the key.

You may also be interested in:

Our latest article is about healthy school lunches

Printable pdf list of healthy school lunch ideas

Printable lunch notes for school lunch boxes - colorful and cute healthy lunch notes to tuck in lunch box or school lunch money.




Hilton Rami Biswas
Tuesday, Sep 01, 2009 @ 12:02 AM

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Dear, Greeting from Bangladesh. I am Rami Biswas. for your kind information I have a school for poor children, They are needy and hopeless. I am trying to help them for education. Today I visit your web and I think that only you can help me to continue running my school. If you want I can send my school profile to you. Pray for us. God bless you. Thanks, Hilton Rami Biswas
Wednesday, Sep 02, 2009 @ 04:03 AM

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Yeah…really true…very good topic…well written You can also make healthy recipes for your kid..which may help out..
Saturday, Oct 10, 2009 @ 06:24 AM

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Hi there, I found your blog via Google while searching for healthy parenting tips and nutrition info for kids your posts and website look great

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